Known to friends and family as Sparky, “Peanuts” creator Charles M. Schulz died in 2000. Since that time, Schulz’s work has remained almost universally beloved — as was demonstrated in October when the internet erupted in outrage at Apple TV Plus’ announcement that it would become the exclusive home to three “Peanuts” holiday specials. (A subsequent deal with PBS ensured that two of the specials would be available outside the Apple ecosystem for at least 2020.) Apple is also home to the first new “Peanuts” television projects in roughly two decades.
On Feb. 5, “The Snoopy Show,” a full-length animated comedy series produced in collaboration with Schulz’s family, will debut. Jean Schulz, Sparky’s wife of 27 years, spoke with Variety about the venture.
How has Apple been as a creative partner?
We are so happy to have this relationship with Apple TV Plus, because they were one of the only places we talked to who wanted to do new material and be under the guidance [of ] Creative Associates, our creative arm here — people who are steeped in the “Peanuts” lore.
Apple was one of the only companies that you talked to who wanted to do new material with you?
New material in creative cooperation with us. Yes, Pixar would do it; other people would do it. But it would be their own project, not a collaboration. I think that probably would be what everybody would want. They want to have control and want it to be what they think is salable. Our interest is in keeping it as true to “Peanuts” as we can — to the comic strip, to my husband’s kind of humor and the humanity that comic strip showed.
What are the creative elements in “The Snoopy Show” that you feel fit alongside the original “Peanuts” work?
The stories. The stories are taken from the comic strip, and the comic strip always showed that even though there are arguments, friendship wins out in the end and people come together. So that’s maybe a lesson that might go worldwide these days.
Were you surprised that there was backlash when Apple announced it was going to be the exclusive home for the old specials?
We were aware that that would be a reaction. What I have been pleased with is Apple’s solution to share them with PBS so that people like me, who just want to go and turn on a TV channel, can get them and don’t
have to do other things that are more modern.
The daily “Peanuts” comic strip ended more than 20 years ago, but images from it are constantly being
shared on social media. Why do you think the strip’s endured?
We had an exhibition at the Schulz Museum about the overlap between Charles Schulz’s work and “Alice in Wonderland.” That was on the 150th anniversary of “Alice.” I can believe that in another 150 years, they’re still going to be talking about Lucy pulling away the football. They’re still going to talk about Linus and his security blanket and Charlie Brown and his kite string. These are images in the comic strip that are useful today.
The strip was very rarely political. But it had a well-defined morality. What do you think your husband would have made of what’s happening now with Trump sewing chaos and inciting violence?
He would think it was a disgrace. If he were drawing comics, that wouldn’t go in comics. But everything that went on on the world was reflected in the comic strip. And periodically I wonder [which characters] would be reflecting some of the history that’s going on now.
What do you think your husband would have made of kids entertainment today?
I think there undoubtedly are things that he would like a lot. What he tended to get impatient with in cartooning was cartoonists who were just lazy and went for the easy, obvious jokes. He wanted something that had more thought, more meat to it.
Things you didn’t know about Jean Schulz
Birthplace: Mannheim, Germany
Humble beginnings: She was born to British parents who ran a Berlitz Language School
Cause she cares most about: Canine Companions for Independence, a nonprofit organization she founded that aims to enhance the lives of adults, children and veterans with disabilities by providing highly trained assistance dogs